DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Millions of fans around the world watched the Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin collapse following a play in the first quarter on Monday Night Football.
The injury stunned fans and the entire NFL community. As medical staffers tended to Hamlin, the conversation quickly shifted from his injury to his entire life.
"So when it first happened, it looks certainly scary that something had happened that was serious," said Dr. Manesh Patel, who serves as Duke University's chief of cardiology and co-director of the heart center. "As the day went on, and people did CPR, which was great to help resuscitate him and his conversation about bringing out an automated external defibrillator. AED made me think much more that it was likely related to a hit to the chest."
Using an AED as a complement to CPR also makes a remarkable difference, according to medical experts.
"It's critical that you do both CPR and get an automated defibrillator to the person's bed, bedside or floor side or wherever they are to then determine if they are needing a shock. The shock gets the heart back to working in the way electrically and needs to the CPR keeps the blood flow into the body and the brain while we're waiting for the shock," said Patel.
In rare events, low to mild blows to the chest "at the right millisecond" can cause freak injuries just as the one that millions watched Monday night.
Medical professionals stress the importance of starting CPR within the first 5-6 minutes to greatly improve the survival rate of the victim and limit the possibility of brain damage injury.
"Don't be afraid to intervene," said Wake County EMS assistant chief Brian Brooks. "Doing nothing is the worst thing you can do in this situation. Because again, if somebody goes 5 to 6 minutes and they need CPR and it has been 5-6 minutes, there is brain damage happening...But, learning how to do the compressions and learning where the closest AED is paramount."
Wake County EMS offers a free CPR course held on the third Wednesday of each month at their training center on South Rogers Lane.
"It's a skill we want everyone to know. We hope you don't have to use it, but when you do need it and you don't know, it's painstaking waiting for 7-8 minutes for someone to arrive," Brooks said. "When if you just would have taken the two hours out of your week to come down and learn how to do compressions you would probably learn how to save someone's life."
Brooks also said the fear of hurting someone if you perform CPR should be the least of anyone's worries.
"We just want you to do compressions until somebody arrives. We know the compressions are what matters. You can't hurt this person, technically they're dead. You can't hurt a dead person. And any injuries you give them is better than them not surviving this episode."
"We know that time is of the essence," said Patel, "And it's really critical that people are trained to do it. And that help arrives and then these defibrillators are present to shock people back into normal."
Brooks added, "This is the worst-case scenario. This person is dead and they're going to remain dead unless somebody intervenes. And if you're that sole person that knows how to do the compressions, you basically have their life in your hands."
Back in July 2013, former Appalachian State University basketball player Omar Carter collapsed on the court while playing basketball at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte. Carter received 13 minutes of CPR until emergency transport arrived. Carter started the Omar Carter Foundation to bring more awareness to sudden cardiac arrest.
"Prayers for Damar Hamlin," Carter sent in a Tuesday tweet. "I know first-hand what this feels like."